Dream Big & Buy The Shoes

August 26, 2016

Dreaming Up Fun With StickerApp

Don't you just love when you get to play around with something and it takes you back to your childhood? That's exactly what happened during my recent creation with custom stickers from StickerApp.
custom stickers

When I was younger I used to love playing with stickers. I would put them on everything, including my dresser and my mirror. My parents didn't love it, but I have to think they enjoyed me expressing my creativity. Recently Ethan was getting all his things ready to head back to school and we were out shopping but couldn't find cool teenager themed supplies. It was such a bummer that so many stores either have more child driven themed things or just plain old boring black, blue and white.

My soon to be teenager was thrilled when we got home and he got to pick out his own stickers on StickerApp.com to decorate his binders for school. It was like making a custom work of art. He chose some bright colorful stickers to really make his boring binder fun again. Having something unique to take to classes is sure to bring some excitement during the long school days.

custom stickers

teenage stickers

After he chose his stickers I got to work on something that will save me from a future headache during the Christmas season. For some reason, no matter how many I buy I seem to run out of gift tags. One of my goals is to make something homemade for everyone on my list. What better way to make the gift complete than with a custom Christmas gift tag with our family's picture on it? I am so excited to wrap up presents with these beautiful stickers on them under the tree. Designing the custom sticker on StickerApp.com couldn't have been easier. Simply upload a picture, put in some text if you would like and just like that...a sticker turned gift tag in a matter of minutes.

custom stickers

Since Ethan and I got to dream up some fun, I thought I would let my husband get involved too. Chuck's "man area" of the garage is so crazy and fun. He has signs and posters everywhere, and his big toolbox is covered in stickers. Chuck picked out some stickers of his own on StickerApp.com and I couldn't get over all the great options they had. Everyone in our family had something they loved on the site, so it was great for all of us!

If you want to check out their stuff and make some custom stickers or custom labels of your own you can get 20% off your order with the code: DREAMBIGDISCOUNT20 and you can use it until 9/10/16.

StickerApp was so nice that they included a great giveaway valued at $40 for one lucky winner. Enter via the Rafflecopter below to win $40 to use on StickerApp.com. The giveaway will run through September 2nd...Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What would you use your own custom stickers for?

August 24, 2016

4 Things Being A Stepmom Has Taught Me

Today I'm taking a small break from the Wedding Wednesday recaps to talk about another important part of my life. If you've been a reader of mine for a while, or even just follow me on Instagram it's pretty evident how much I love my Stepson.

Since he's headed back to school tomorrow for another year of middle school I thought I'd share some things being a Stepmom to this amazing little dude has taught me.

Love big.
Ethan is a lover. For the past several years the first thing on his Christmas list has been "for homeless people to find a home." Ethan always wants to give more, do more, and love bigger.  He is constantly sharing things with the neighborhood kids. I remember the first Summer he lived with us full time and we couldn't keep Capri Suns stocked in our fridge. He would always grab a handful of them and I would look out the window to find him sitting with other kids passing out drinks. He's always wanting to give something to someone and make people happy. He comes up with the grandest ideas each year for Father's Day, Christmas and his Daddy's birthday because he loves him so much. His heart is something I will forever admire because his love is endless.

A photo posted by emelia💜 (@emeliaanne_) on

The small moments are really great.
I used to take for granted the little moments in life until I became a Stepmom. Bedtime became one of my favorite times of the day because Ethan is always giggly and silly and it's just so fun. I learned to slow down and just sit with Ethan playing or doing my work while he does his homework. I cherish those quiet times now and look forward to coming home from a long day at work to see how his day was. Now that he's gotten older he loves to talk and ask questions...who knew that conversations with my almost teenager could be so fun? The moments I used to take for granted are some of the most special ones now. Each moment with Ethan is one that I will cherish.

Each day is a fresh new start.
There's some times that I get really mad when he's upset me or done something wrong. I yell. I punish him. Then I get sad and wonder if he's going to hate me for days or weeks. Ethan wakes up the next day with a "Hi Milla" and a smile on his face. I know it's not always going to be this easy, but we all make mistakes and react some ways we probably shouldn't have...Stepmoms included. The beauty of it all is that each day is a fresh new start. I'm grateful for our relationship and the never ending love and greatness that comes with a brand new day. There's days he's a bit wild and crazy and sometimes ornery, but I know that tomorrow another day is coming and that one may be a little easier.

You don't have to give someone life for them to make a difference in yours.
You may not think it looking at us now, but Ethan and I went through a rocky period. When Chuck and I were dating it was hard at first to find my place. I had so much fun with Ethan and really began to care for him, but never wanted to cross any boundaries. Having divorced parents myself, I knew our road wasn't going to be easy for the three of us. Figuring out how to make day to day routines, new memories, and rules work for everyone involved wasn't a walk in the park. It was really difficult for me at times to wonder if we would ever get through it because I wasn't his biological parent but I realized that I could still be an important part of Ethan's life. Now Chuck teases me all the time because he says Ethan is wrapped around my finger. It's true...and it didn't take long. Ethan's personality, his ability to care for everyone, his infectious spirit and fun loving soul won me over really quick. He's taught me so much...more than four things I could ever list in a blog post. Ethan has truly changed me for the better and I'm a better person with him in my life. I couldn't imagine it any differently now and every single day I am blessed to be a part of his.

I know parenting and Stepmom posts don't come often around here, so if you're still reading...thank you. I love having this space to put my thoughts and feelings into words and look back on in years to come. Ethan, if you ever read this...I love you more than you will ever know, thank you for being the brightest part of my day and one of the biggest blessings in my life.

August 22, 2016

5 Reasons You Should Visit Erie, Pa In The Summer

Erie, Pa...my beautiful home. While Pittsburgh will always have my heart, I really do love Erie. Yes, it snows....a lot, but Summers here are absolutely amazing. If you've never visited, it's definitely a great place to get away for a long weekend and enjoy the surroundings.

1. Presque Isle State Park
The Peninsula as it's known by the locals, is the place to be all Summer long. Whether you're enjoying the bike trails or a walk along the lake there's always a wonderful view. You can search for beach glass, explore the lagoons in a kayak, or spend time relaxing on the 11 miles of beaches. Take a walk down to Perry monument and sit by the fountain, and if you head over by the trails you can see a great view of the city.
presque isle

erie pa summer

erie pa summers

sunsets erie pa

presque isle erie pa

Between beaches 9 & 10 you can find Sunset Point which is a popular spot for kite flying. This is one of the only beaches where you can drive right up to the sand to see great views of the lake.

At these beaches you can often find several kites flying in the air, especially on the weekend. I love coming to these beaches because they're farther down the lake and often less crowded making it more serene.

2. The food & drinks
You don't want to visit Erie without hitting up Sara's because it screams Summer. The local diner features Smith's (the BEST) hot long foot dogs, crispy french fries & onion rings and sweet milkshakes. Sit outside, or inside by the neon lights and enjoy the sights and visitors from all over.

While you're outside, take a ride along the Bayfront Connector over to downtown and take in a Rum Runner. This restaurant and bar is right on the water and serves up the best rum concoctions, but drink them slow because they'll kick your butt fast and you're only allowed 3. And yes, the waitresses and bartenders do keep track so if you want more, be creative.

Since it's Summer you want some ice cream. The Blue Moon at Whippy Dip is off the charts, and you can't beat the classic chocolate at Romolo's. While you're at Romolo's pick up some chocolate covered grapes...best thing ever.

State Street is home to allllll the bars and there's plenty of outdoor seating so you can enjoy the sunshine. I highly recommend the spinach & artichoke dip from Calamari's, wings from the Plymouth, a glass of Presque Isle Rose from Cloud 9, and anything in the form of a shot from anything below 6th street because that's where the late nights always happen.

One of the newest places to chill is the Courtyard Erie Bayfront and it's become one of my favorite places to catch a beautiful sunset and views of the lake. The infinity pool is SO cool too.

3. The fun things around town
The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is completely free and you can't miss it on your drive down to Presque Isle State Park. There's lots of facts on the history of the park and usually seasonal things to check out too. Take a few hours to walk around and check out the exhibits and take a trip up to the top of the tower to get a great view of Presque Isle and Waldameer Park.

Head downtown to see the Bicentennial Tower and another great view of the lake. You can climb to the top of the observation deck 138 feet to get some amazing pictures and see for miles on a nice clear day.

Waldameer Park is our local amusement park and you have to ride the Ravine Flyer II which is ranked the 7th best wooden coaster in the world. What makes this ride so fun is the fact that it goes over the four lanes of traffic headed to and from Presque Isle State Park. The wave pool is another great area that's super relaxing and fun all at the same time.

The Brig Niagara at the Maritime Museum is definitely a cool thing to check out while you're in town. In 1813 there was a battle including nine ships, one of them being the Niagara, defeated the British ships in the Battle of Lake Erie. This third replica of the ship resides by our library downtown at the Maritime Museum. You can see it from the library windows and it sometimes goes out on the Great Lakes too.

4. Enjoy all the music
There's constantly Summer music events during the week which make it easy to get out of the house and really enjoy the season.
8 Great Tuesdays is held...well, on Tuesdays in the evenings. Come down to the amphitheatre for some free entertainment, and it's totally family friendly. There's also food trucks, beer and wine and another beautiful view of the water. They host a variety of music from blues to country to rock and roll throughout Summer.

sunset music series

The Mid Day Art Break is great if you're downtown during normal work hours. Grab lunch at the Wave Cafe and take a walk outside on your lunch to enjoy the live music series from 12-1 pm. Free gallery tours are given during 12:30- 1 pm on these Wednesday afternoons as well.

Romolo's Chocolates plays host to several bands throughout the Summer on Saturday evenings. Get a few pieces of chocolate or a delicious ice cream cone since it's one of the best spots around and take in the sweet surroundings.

romolos erie pa

romolos erie pa

The Sunset Summer Music Series can be enjoyed on Wednesday nights on Beach 1 from right after work beginning at 5:30 until sunset. Bring a chair or a blanket and park it in the sand. It's a great event put on by the Presque Isle partnership and there's always a very energetic group.

Shickalay's On The Bay usually has an outdoor concert in their huge grass area with funky bands on the weekends. Pro tip: If you don't want to pay to get in, but still want to enjoy the music or a nice dinner...hit up Joe Roots Grill across the street. Sit outside and have a glass of wine and my favorite, the Shrimp Caesar Salad while you can hear the jams from Shickalay's.

5. The Sunsets
Last but definitely not least, one of my favorite things about Erie is the sunsets. They are beautiful any time of the year, but absolutely killer in the Summer. One of the best things to do in the Summer is ride down to Presque Isle and catch a sunset on the beach. We've done quite a bit of it this Summer....I'll let the pictures explain why Erie was named third in the world for the best sunsets by National Geographic.
best sunsets in erie pa

lake erie sunsets

lake erie pa sunset

hotels in erie pa

presque isle erie pa

All of these pictures were taken on my cell phone from just doing some day to day exploring in my own city, so once our camera is back from being fixed I can't wait to venture out and practice with it. A lot of people aren't big fans of the NorthEast because of the cold, but if you ever venture to Erie in the Summer you will not be disappointed.

What's your favorite place to visit in the Summer? Have you ever been to Erie, Pa?

August 19, 2016

Light & Easy Summer Bites and a Tasty Giveaway

There's a list of things I can't eat in the hot Summer months. When the heat kicks in I like to keep it light. Since we are usually on the go so much, making easy meals is a must. Summer may seem as if it's winding down but this year has been a H O T one so I thought it would be good to put together a light and easy Summer bites.

summer recipes

I saw this Panzanella Salad from Kenzie at Simply J&K and my mouth was instantly drooling so I made it myself, but just a little differently.

You will need:
3 large tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 package mozzarella cheese- I actually cut up 4 cheese sticks
8 basil leaves
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
Italian bread on the side

To make:
Chop tomatoes, onion, basil, and mozzarella cheese
Combine in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil on top
Add salt and pepper and toss salad
Enjoy with bread, some like to add it in chunks to the salad. I enjoyed mine on top of small pieces of bread, eating it like a bruschetta. I also ate it by itself as a side dish with some chicken for lunch.

While I don't highly recommend eating pasta salad for every meal, I could definitely do it with this one. My loaded pizza pasta salad is a repeat hit at summer BBQ's and is so easy to throw together. If you're looking for a last minute dish to make for a get together this season, this is the one you want to bring.

pinterest summer recipes

I was scrolling through Instagram recently, hungry...of course, when I saw Christine's mac & cheese that instantly had me drooling. Over at Christine Everyday she shares an easy recipe of the best homemade macaroni and cheese recipe... I can't wait to try it. I mean who doesn't love this classic dish?

mac and cheese recipes
picture via Christine Everyday

While they may not be the healthiest option, they include chocolate and zucchini-- so they're a win in my book. My Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins were on the blog last week, and if you missed it here's what you need to know.....you have to make them, right now. I can't get over how good they are, nice and moist and full of chocolate deliciousness.

chocolate baking recipes

I love lettuce wraps...I first got hooked on the PF Chang ones, don't tell me I'm not alone. I saw Caitlin from Southern Curls & Pearls shared her healthy chicken salad lettuce wrap recipe I immediately saved it. It's a great lunch option and can be prepped easily...because if you're like me you're making dinner and lunches for the week at the same time.

pinterest chicken recipes
image via Southern Curls & Pearls
And last but not least, while it may not be a meal...we all can use some caffeine to kickstart some things...especially during these busy Summer days. My homemade iced coffee is killer, and it's a necessity this time of the year. 

iced coffee recipes

To make the rest of Summer even easier, I'm giving away F O U R different Blue Apron Gift Cards- two separate winners will receive a $25 Blue Apron Gift Card and two more winners will receive a  $30 Blue Apron Gift Card. There will be four winners total, each winning one gift card. The giveaway will run through 8/26...Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*  $25 Gift Card offer ends 9/15/16. $30 Gift Cards offer ends 10/30/16.  Valid for new meal plan subscriptions only. Paid subscription and credit card required to redeem. Limit one redemption per household. Not valid with offers or purchase of a gift card. Not redeemable for cash. Void where prohibited. Delivery restrictions may apply. See Rafflecopter terms for further details*

What's your favorite easy dish to make in the Summer?
Linking up with Amanda for Friday Favorites!